Limiting Our Education Limits Our Possibilities - National Council of Teachers of English
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Limiting Our Education Limits Our Possibilities

The National Coalition Against Censorship’s Student Advocates for Speech program was created in 2022 to provide participants with virtual advocacy training, opportunities to engage in national dialogues, and find outlets to amplify their voices. For the past two years, NCTE has worked in close partnership with NCAC on a project for student advocates to write op-eds about censorship issues that have particular meaning to them. For the next six weeks, these op-eds, written by students in the fall of 2023, will be featured here on the Literacy & NCTE blog. Student voices are often left out of conversations about policy, legislation, censorship, and access to a diverse and expansive education. NCTE and NCAC are proud to feature them here.


This blog post was written by Mikaela Hendrickson, an 11th-grade student in Brooklyn, New York.

“The last thing the world needs is one more psych major,”  said a fellow teenager I recently overheard on the subway. Apparently, Governor Ron DeSantis and Florida’s Department of Education could not agree more because on August 3rd, 2023, my Instagram feed blew up with reposts about the announced ban on AP psychology in Florida. Hidden under captions such as “distraught,” “horrifying,” and “unbelievable,” it appeared my New York classmates were distraught over what was happening to their Southern counterparts—and who could blame them? Time and time again, it seems as though legislators use their power to control what information is being received, starting in the classroom.

Students are told over and over that they are supposed to change the world. However, when it comes down to it, do adults really want the youth to change anything? In the same country where teen activists are free to lobby for reform, high schoolers are not free to learn a fundamental social science. I wish I could say it was all part of some masterful plan to keep certain people in power, but honestly, it isn’t that masterful; it’s pure censorship.

Recently, my friend was telling me about her debate tournament, her topic being the lack of clean water in America. I asked her if she chose this topic—she did not. In fact, all of the topics she really wanted to debate, such as abortion and gun safety, were off the table because they were too “present.” I found this to be odd. Isn’t the point of a debate team to discuss current issues? However, the more I thought about this, the more I realized how present it is in the daily life of students. In school, we’re told by teachers to speak neutrally about sensitive subjects, as if having an opinion will threaten the productivity of the class. There are few things worse than feeling like what you have to say doesn’t matter—or worse—is not worthy of being listened to.

The class was only effectively banned for a few days before Florida had to reverse its course, but during that time it was easy to see the direction that education was going: into the hands of invested political leaders. The saddening part was not that high schoolers who are interested in psychology will not get to explore their passion, it was that it was so easy for an entire curriculum to be erased and leave schools, teachers, and students powerless in the decision. 

Just because power was lost in that decision does not mean it is gone for good. Students all over should work to learn what their schools are not allowed to teach them. This doesn’t mean studying the entire curriculum of a banned course or reading a banned book cover to cover; understanding the different sides of stories that are so feared is power in and of itself. Learning is at the center of some of my most rewarding moments, but what I’ve realized is that learning does not strictly apply to the classroom. As a member of a developing society, it is my responsibility to constantly seek more information, from new sources, in new ways.

But this quest for knowledge doesn’t—and shouldn’t—rest solely on our shoulders as students. Adults: it is your responsibility to help nurture our curiosity and critical thinking skills. Someday, we will also be adults, which means the power to control or relinquish education will become our responsibility. Help us do right by future students by opening our educational opportunities now.




Hello, my name is Mikaela Hendrickson, and I am a rising junior from Brooklyn, New York. I love to watch basketball, play tennis, and read. I am super excited to be a part of NCAC’s SAS team, and I cannot wait to see what we do this year!



It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.